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A sweater for my bestie

April 18, 2019

I was seventeen years old in 1999 when Air Canada dropped me into the sweltering humidity of a small Ontario university town where I would study architecture… in preparation for becoming a hand-knitting pattern designer, of course. I was pretty certain I was grown up, and knew everything I needed to about the world. This is, of course, hilarious looking back.

Chantal and I twenty years back, in 1999 – first year of Architecture at University of Waterloo

Chantal was 20, super cool and oh so worldly, having worked and traveled around Europe the year prior. A long-legged blonde, she wore a yellow rain coat and jumped in puddles with a contagious crazy-eyed exuberance. So I followed her around like a puppy, overawed, and we became friends. Over our university years, we shared a dim room in Rome, a walk-up in Montreal, a lovely two-bedroom in Toronto, a hot little townhouse next to the tracks in Cambridge Ontario, and had many wacky adventures. Though we haven’t lived in the same city for over a decade, we still talk every month or two.

When I was getting married in 2014, Chantal landed in Edinburgh, and took over my unrealistic project to design and sew three bridesmaid dresses (WTF did I think I was doing?!). She calmly consoled me when, 72 hours before the wedding, I concluded amid floods of pregnancy-hormone-fueled tears that NO, the wedding dress I was attempting to construct WOULD NOT work. Luckily 2 hours of shopping later the tears were dry and I had a dress I loved.

That was 5 years ago! Since then I’ve wanted to make her something special, a gift that would show at least a fraction of the love and work and time that she’s put in over the years. This sweater was the result. Full disclosure? I made this for her in May 2018 when she visited Scotland, and it’s practically an entire year later and I only just shipped it last week…

I’m modelling Chantal’s sweater, as I couldn’t manage a trip to Toronto to photograph her!

Chantal’s Sweater

This sweater is a Strange Brew yoke. I followed the bottom-up sock weight instructions, thought I made body and sleeves on the knitting machine to save time. After yoke join, I had 344 sts on the needles. I diverged slightly from the Strange Brew recipe by working raglan decreases (at the points where sleeve sts and body sts joined) 3 times, decreasing the stitch count to 320. Then I set up the 8-st pattern repeat.

As this was a ‘knit’ rather than a ‘design’ I felt free to pick from my rather large palette of 4-ply yarns. The body is Tukuwool Fingering, which is this LOVELY Finnish yarn, available in a great palette. I hoped this sweater would be be a hard-wearing heirloom (it’ll probably be another decade before I make Chantal another sweater). I selected contrast colours from within my extensive collection of shetland and shetland-style 4ply yarns, and they all work nicely together.

I used several yarns and colourways:

I worked this decreasing wedge chart through the yoke, then a couple of decrease rounds above the chart to get to the neckline stitch count desired.

I had this idea of 2-toned motifs, that worked against 2-toned bands of background colour. I staggered the changes, so that the foreground motif colours change on a different round than the background changes. This worked pretty well, the only part of the pattern that didn’t really read as clearly as I liked was the two colours of light pink in the middle; they’re too similar to read as two different tones, and the background colour ought to have changed out a round earlier. But this was a level of imperfection I could accept in a ‘strange brew’ sweater knit. I accept that I’m never going to get it 100% perfect, and trying to do so would prevent me from getting to FINISHED.

At chart completion, the stitch count was 240 sts. My aim was to get to a neckline stitch count of 128 sts. Right after the chart was finished, I first I worked a single round in MC, then a decrease round [k3, k2tog] around to 192 sts.

Next I found centre back, and worked some short-row back of neck shaping. I used the short-row instructions from the Icefall pattern, following instructions for the XL size, as it had the stitch count nearest to my total at that point. After short-rows, I knit another couple of rounds, then a final decrease round; [k1, k2tog] around, to 128 sts. Lastly I worked a narrow band of 2×2 ribbing and blocked it all aggressively! Beauty eh?

Overall, I worked about +/- 52 yoke rounds, then the ribbing. That’s pretty close to what the Strange Brew recipe pattern calls for for a SM (37” bust) size.

So tell us, have you knit a friend a sweater? Or a hat? What do you love about gift knitting?

20 Comments leave one →
  1. Leticia permalink
    March 1, 2021 10:13 pm

    Wow I really need a knitting machine please tell me where can I buy I’m based in South Africa Limpopo.

    Please assist.

    • March 5, 2021 10:36 am

      Hi! I”m sorry, we don’t sell knitting machine’s so I’m not really sure. Best luck in your search!

  2. Judy Yamada permalink
    October 25, 2019 7:31 am

    Is there a “full”, hand knit pattern for this sweater?

    • October 29, 2019 3:11 pm

      Hi Judy – Yep! Emily used the Strange Brew pattern, just machine knitting the body rather than hand knitting it.

  3. August 17, 2019 4:35 am

    I’m eagerly reading the blog. Looking for other instances where the sweater body is machine knit. Specifically, info on matching machine and handknit gauge. I assume sleeves are seemed? Can’t wait to master my machine more to attempt this.

  4. Debbie Tucker permalink
    August 15, 2019 11:03 am

    I knit my husband the Marius sweater ..I am now knitting 2 strange brews sweaters for my 2 granddaughters. A very slow process because of back issues . I keep losing feelings in my hands and feet.

  5. purlbaby permalink
    April 30, 2019 8:44 pm

    I love knitting for others, for Christmas, birthdays, and just because. That’s usually where my knitted items go, although I recently bought a shawl kit that’s (supposedly) to be made for me. Super excited to cast on! :)

  6. April 25, 2019 8:01 pm

    I made my college roommate/bff of a decade a Marshland for her birthday a few months ago :)

  7. Olivia permalink
    April 22, 2019 5:29 am

    I rarely keep anything I knit. I have a large family and now they have spouses and children so, the 3 sweaters I’ve recently made myself are a rarity. It’s so nice to gift hand knit things.

  8. April 22, 2019 5:11 am

    Pretty sweater! I’m intrigued by the process of knitting partially on a knitting machine and finishing by hand.

  9. Theresa Hofstetter permalink
    April 20, 2019 4:05 pm

    This sweater is just beautiful and I have saved it as inspiration. It is my goal for this year to knit my first tone sweater. I am working now on learning the knitting machine my aunt gave me as I know I have no hope of knitting all that stockinette by hand.

  10. Meredith MC permalink
    April 20, 2019 7:19 am

    I forgot to say- I love the sweater you knit! I love the colors and the shape. It’s such an inspiration. I’m off to find and favorite it on Ravelry.

  11. Meredith MC permalink
    April 20, 2019 7:16 am

    I’ve knit many gift accessories for friends and family. I think my favorite part is knowing my efforts keep them cozy against the cold, and can work as a sort of hug when I can’t be there. The handknits is a physical reminder that they’re loved. We could all use those reminders.

  12. April 20, 2019 12:52 am

    Hi Emily I’ve recently discovered Tin Can Knits and am new here to your lovely blog. I just wanted to say wow! Your jumper for Chantal is absolutely stunning and I’m sure she feels very lucky to have you as a friend. For me, knitting a gift represents reaching out to those we love. With every stitch you have that person at the foremost in your mind, they’re there with you. When we don’t see people we love, we miss them and so knitting for them draws you closer and squeezes the distance between you. I think all my knits have been gifts for friends and family. It definitely makes me feel closer to them .

  13. Nancy Reed permalink
    April 18, 2019 1:00 pm

    Well – I knitted a February Lady Sweater for my daughter, my BFF, who lives in Paris and is currently teaching in Dubai. (See details at my Ravelry page, “geminiknitter”). It was quite an effort, but having done one my intent is to make one for myself. She does love it. Of course many other things are constantly putting themselves in front of my own FLS….but that often happens to us, doesn’t it? :D Nancy

  14. April 18, 2019 12:17 pm

    Yes, I have been knitting for family and friends for over 59 years. I have finally started making for me. Hats, scarves, cowls, and sweaters. I also crochet a little so add baby blankets galore and an throw or two for adults. I knit or crochet at least every other day. I try to every day when I can. Knitting has gotten me thru some real unhappiness in my life, death of my life partner, etc. While hubby was in hospital I made about 30 beanies over 2 weeks. I owe knitting my life. My aunt taught me to knit a simple stitch when I was 13 and now at 72 I am still going strong. Thank you for your posts. Linda

  15. Julie M permalink
    April 18, 2019 9:39 am

    So so lovely! I like knitting for others, mostly younguns, mittens or hats. I’ve ceased knitting sweaters – sadly. Seems they aren’t the thing with active sweaty kids. (Hoodies and tees rule no matter the season in MN with my clan.)

  16. April 18, 2019 7:44 am

    What a lovely sweater, and a lovely present! Yes, I have knitted my best friend a cloche hat in a lovely lavender shade she loves, and a silk shawl when she was sick. Gifting hand knits just feels so good, especially when you know the recipient will love them.

  17. April 18, 2019 7:10 am

    What an amazing gift, and a stunning colour combo on the yoke! Thank you for sharing the story of your friendship.

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